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Air Canada Foundation Hospital Transport Program - Meet Jezzirae

Ideally, any life-saving treatment a sick child requires would be available in their hometown, but that is not always the case.

Thank goodness for the Air Canada Hospital Transport Program. This amazing initiative allows families to rid themselves of the financial worry of airfare.

When Yvonne and James Chomini welcomed their daughter Jezzirae into the world on January 14, 2017, she was born with a complete AVSD and Down Syndrome.

AVSD, (atrioventricular septal defect) is a heart defect affecting the valves between the heart’s upper and lower chambers and the walls between the chambers.

At just 3 months of age, Jezzirae was required to leave her home in Winnipeg and travel to Edmonton for life-saving surgery at Stollery Children’s Hospital.

“We were supposed to get a complete repair of her AVSD,” remembers Yvonne. “But when we got to Edmonton they determined she was too small to do a full repair. Instead they did a partial repair so that Jezzirae could grow a little more and come back.”

The return trip took place when she was 6 months old.

“My husband didn’t come along the 2nd time,” explains Yvonne. “I brought my older daughter with me hoping for a complete repair, but things didn’t go as planned. Jezzirae got really sick and had to go back into surgery a second time because her heart was leaking. I was under an extreme amount of stress and became sick myself. I desperately needed my husband with me, which is when the Air Canada Hospital Transport Program stepped in. They took care of everything.”

Through the Air Canada Hospital Transport Program, James was able to get to Edmonton to help shoulder the load, and give Yvonne and their daughter some much needed support.

“When my husband showed up it brought me such relief because finally I felt like I could leave for a few minutes and my daughter would be okay,” says Yvonne. “You have so much anxiety and fear when your baby is sick. I never wanted to leave the hospital, or even take a bathroom break. The fear of losing my child meant that I didn’t want her to be alone for one minute. To have someone else there so that I could take a shower and not have to worry was huge. The things we take for granted became so big.”

The trip to Edmonton was supposed to be 10-14 days, and instead Yvonne ended up away from family and friends for over a month.

Yvonne credits the Air Canada Hospital Transport Program, and the subsequent visit from James, with allowing her to make it through the ordeal.

“That 3 days gave me so much,” recalls Yvonne. “We were trying to figure out a way to get my husband to Edmonton, but keep in mind that James had to take the time off work, never mind the cost of the flight. With 7 other kids to support there is no way we could have done it. Emergencies don’t give you any notice, flights are always last minute, and we just couldn’t have spent that kind of money.”

Yvonne is grateful to all who have supported this extraordinary program.

“You’ve lifted a burden off my shoulders,” says Yvonne. “Knowing that James was coming to be with me, I felt like I could breathe again. I was able to take a break from the hospital so I could recharge and be there for my family.”

Since 2003, Aeroplan members have been able to donate their miles to the Air Canada Foundation to assist families in the direst of circumstances.

“Our family can’t thank people enough for supporting this program,” says Yvonne. “More than anything we are thankful and grateful every day that Jezzirae is still here with us.”

Thanks for your continued support of The Air Canada Hospital Transport Program, which has not only eased the financial hardship for families, it has literally saved lives.